The Palace was destroyed in 1381 in the Peasant’s Revolt thanks to the huge unpopularity of John of Gaunt, Earl of Lancaster, the de facto head of government at that time. The peasants mob lead by Wat Tyler made its way through the streets of London and when they reached the Savoy Palace burnt it down. A number of the Duke’s servants were executed but some of the rebels also lost their lives when in a drunken state, they were trapped in the wine cellars as the house above was reduced to ashes.
After this the palace lay derelict or hardly used until around 1505 when, as one of his last public benefactions, Henry VII set in motion the building of a hospital dedicated to St John the Baptist. Though heavily restored, much of this building remained until 1864 when a fire destroyed virtually everything except the walls.
Part of the old Savoy Palace building was used as a military prison, in particular for any deserters due to be shot in Hyde Park. In 1761 over 200 prisoners here mutinied and a considerable battle developed. The Universal Register noted that ‘An unconcerned spectator looking down from the roof was unfortunately taken for one of the rioters, shot and killed on the spot.’ The original designer is unknown however T.E Collcutt played a large part in designing the original part of today’s hotel that opened on 6 August 1889, a development by Richard D’Oyly Carte alongside his flourishing Savoy Theatre. Another block was added in 1903-4. It was one of the earliest London hotels to provide a high ratio of bathrooms to bedrooms, of which there are 200, and to be fitted with electric lifts and electric lights. It is still renowned for its famous Grill Room.
Cesar Ritz was the first manager and August Escoffier the first chef; the hotel still possesses his pots and pans. Between them they created a card index of the rich and famous who were their guests, recording and catering for their extravagant or idiosyncratic tastes, or lack of them. Amongst the exuberant dishes they created was Peche Melba in honour of Dame Nellie Melba’s visit to London. Sir Henry Irving lived at the Savoy, Sarah Bernhardt nearly died there, Edwardian millionaires flooded the courtyard with champagne and Caruso sang.